Abilities in Motion Aggressively Helping Latinos with Disabilities Find Independence

by Joe Benish

Finding just the right services when one has a disability is difficult enough. That dilemma is often made even harder when a language barrier is introduced.

Sensitive to the needs of a large Latino community in its midst, Abilities in Motion (AIM) in downtown Reading makes special outreach efforts to ensure those with disabilities are aware of – and can access – the services and programs they need.

One of 18 Centers for Independent Living (CIL’s) across Pennsylvania, AIM was established in 1989 and has since expanded to include a wide range of services, from peer counseling, advocacy services and teaching independent living skills to specific programs aimed at helping children and youth and those transitioning from nursing home care, among others.

“The Latino community is an underserved community. We are helping people in that important community with a variety of core services,” explained De Lores De Hart, CIL supervisor. “Our bi-lingual staff and specific outreach efforts in the community are important tools.”

Those outreach efforts include working closely with a variety of community groups, including the Hispanic Center, the Reading Housing Authority and the Latino Chamber of Commerce.

“By working together, we can address a number of issues for Latinos who may not know what services are available to them, including family members with disabilities,” noted Felix Colon-Sotormayor, a bi-lingual Independent Living Support staffer at AIM.

At its current location for the past six years, AIM produces its informational materials in both English and Spanish, distributing the Spanish language brochures at events, through community groups and even at Reading City Hall.

“People often just don’t know what is available to them or how to access those services. From immigration problems to child advocacy services to accessing the various programs available through agencies like the state Office of Vocation Rehabilitation (OVR), people with disabilities have the same needs – and often even more – than the general population,” Colon-Sotormayor said. “Our overall goal is to help those with disabilities reach real independence through whatever resources are available to them.”

As a result, Latinos with disabilities are determining their own individual lifestyles based on the wide menu of alternatives they can access. This can include developing an appropriate personal care plan and providing links to other important services, like transportation, equipment and housing modifications. AIM provides information to clients on available financial services for which they may qualify, but does not provide financial assistance directly. It is based on an individual’s needs, regardless of income.

Located at 210 N. Fifth Street in Reading, Abilities in Motion is a nonprofit serving all people with disabilities in Berks County and can make referrals to other CIL’s across the state, if necessary. AIM offices are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, visit abilitiesinmotion.org or call (610) 376-0010 or (888) 376-0120.

Joe Benish

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